Bernie Sanders puts Wall Street on notice: "On day one, I am appointing a special committee to investigate the crimes on Wall Street"

In a new Rolling Stone interview, Bernie Sanders explains how President Obama "blew it" on Wall Street reform

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 18, 2015 9:22PM (EST)


Bernie Sanders has long described himself as a democratic socialist and has found himself fending off mischaracterizations of his political ideology quite often on the campaign trail, so much so that he plans to hold a major address on Thursday explicitly detailing what it means to be a democratic socialist. Ahead of Sanders' big speech, Rolling Stone is out with its new cover feature on his political revolution and as an interview with the candidate while he was on the campaign trail back in May reveals, the populist seems just as committed to major reform as ever -- starting with Wall Street.

The Vermont senator told Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson that his first course of action upon entering the White House would be to go after the Wall Street executives responsible for the 2008 global financial collapse. Not one Wall Street executive has ever been held criminally liable for the rampant financial malfeasance that dove the world markets into a tailspin.

Sanders described to Rolling Stone exactly how such inaction came about and why he thinks President Obama "blew it" on holding Wall Street executives accountable:

About a half-dozen of us went to visit the president, I'm guessing six months into his [first] term. And we went into the White House, and Larry Summers was there and [Tim] Geithner was there. We had all their money people, all their financial people. That was the issue.

I like the president very much, and I have supported him. We've worked together. But these are some of the disagreements we have. The American people were crushed by the greed and illegal behavior on Wall Street, right? And the American people wanted justice.

And we said to the president – I wasn't alone on this – we said, "Mr. President, you gotta do something. You gotta be tough on this issue." The end result was seven years have come and gone and there are still no high-ranking CEOs who are in jail. There are kids who smoke marijuana who have criminal records, but not CEOs of large corporations. No matter what kind of crimes and illegal activity, these guys [Wall Street CEOs] are too big to jail?

That is one of the reasons why people become alienated from the political process. They just don't see justice. From a public-policy point of view, in terms of holding people accountable for serious crimes, the Obama administration blew it. From a political point of view, in giving people confidence that we have a criminal-justice system that works for all, regardless of their wealth or power, it blew it.

"Now what do you think a president should have done," Sanders offered, "on day one, I am appointing a special committee to investigate the crimes on Wall Street."

"We're gonna move this quickly," Sanders promised. "And if these people are found guilty, they will be in jail. Nobody in America is above the law," Sanders declared, arguing that many Wall Street executives had "committed some very serious crimes."

"Is that what Barack Obama said?" the candidate asked.

Read Bernie's full interview with Rolling Stone here

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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